Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fears of the Priesthood pt. 4PLUS

Continuing the monster-sized posting on the "Fears of the Priesthood", I now have a few things that can help with the process of death and dying. I had posted on that here earlier this month.

Although being "there" when someone dies is hard and although being "there" with the family when someone dies or, worse, greeting someone with the news that his or her loved one has died is tough or, worse still, being the one to tell someone that a loved one has died, it is INCREDIBLY more difficult to follow up.
If death can find time to call, you can too!

At the conclusion of each graveside ceremony, I say this to the mourners and their friends:
"At this time, I ask each of you to be very aware of this family and attend to them. There's something we all say, 'Call me if you need me'. However, that won't happen. No one likes to seem 'needy'. No one likes to reach out for help. So our job is to call them. Not wait for their call.
When it comes to love and honor of a loved one, there is no phone call that is unwelcome. No email or letter that is unappreciated. No memory shared that is unwanted. The family will now spend the rest of their lives collecting stories and memories. You are important in that process. If you think of the deceased because of a certain day, then know the family was already thinking that. Share that with them."

Now with that nugget, how does one keep up with it? I go old school. Paper and pen.

My March files, apologies if you're name is on the list.
Stupid prophetic gift!
Since my ordination I've had a file folder dedicated to each month. In the folder, I have death dates and memorabilia from funerals and the newspapers. In case my mind fails, as it is want to do, I have some information to help me put names, family members and events all together. Sometimes I even list an important fact that means something to the family such as the deceased's favorite flower (in case I get generous and send some to the family) or a song or sport the deceased enjoyed.
On anniversaries, I try to send a note or make a phone call to the families. They are always happy to get something. And sometimes they think I have magic-priest powers of memory.

Paper and pen. Magic!

Finally, when you see the family members or loved ones, make sure you say "hello" and ask how they are. If you don't know what to say, just say normal stuff, "How are you?", "What you up to?", "What's good?" or whatever you say. Don't ignore them. Don't run away from them. And don't be morose.

One widow told me she was embarrassed that a clergyman hugged her in public and wept copiously on her shoulder. The same clergyman who didn't respond at all to the man's death until the day of the funeral.

Don't do that.

Remembering the dead is awkward enough. It's uncomfortable. But dare to be awkward.

And with that last sentence, I think I have a new vocation slogan.
Patent pending. Don't steal this, Fr. Matthew!

The final chapter of "FEARS OF THE PRIESTHOOD" is next: Economic Insecurity! Which I probably will have to talk about clergy and widows again.